Sports and exercise can improve psychological health, but it is not a ‘panacea’. A person-oriented approach is needed. Researchers concluded this on the basis of a literature study into the relationship between mental health, exercise and sports. You can read exactly what that means below.
Sports reduces psychological complaints
Regular sport reduces psychological complaints, such as depression and anxiety. This applies to people with mild psychological complaints as well as to people with a psychological disorder. The positive effects are even greater in the latter group. Sports as a treatment for (serious) psychological complaints is better than no treatment. For people with mild psychological complaints, sport as therapy seems to do just as well as psychotherapy or medication.
Sport has benefits for psychological and social health
Research into the relationship between sports and psychological health shows that athletes have fewer symptoms of depression, experience less stress and have more self-confidence than peers who do not exercise. In addition, there are advantages of participation in sports for ‘social health’: athletes have better social skills and more positive contacts with other people than non-athletes. The social context of team sports and organized forms of sport in particular promote social health. It is also important that the focus in (team) sports is more on fun and participation than on competition.
Sports can play an important role in their recovery process for people with (severe) psychological complaints. For example, it can help to get fitter again, to gain more self-confidence, to get structure in life and to come into contact with other people.
One person likes football, the other prefers to go for a walk.
People with (serious) psychological complaints have various reasons for exercising and exercising (again). These reasons are very similar to the ‘healthy’ population. These are reasons such as improving health, getting fitter and stronger, getting more energy, reducing stress, gaining more self-confidence, losing weight and looking more beautiful. However, preferences for certain sports and exercise activities differ per individual. For example, some people prefer to play football, while others prefer to go for a walk in nature.
Psychological complaints hinder participation in sports and physical activity
Although sports and exercise can provide many benefits, taking up sports and exercising (again) is not always self-evident for people with (serious) psychological complaints. They experience various obstacles in this regard. These often have to do with the nature and severity of the psychological complaints.
Obstacles often mentioned are:
* Having (more) depressive complaints
* Having little energy
* Experiencing a lot of stress
* Having a lack of motivation
* In addition to psychological complaints, also having physical disorders or limitations
* A lack of self-confidence to take up sports and exercise
* A lack of support
Sports and exercise activities that can reduce psychological complaints
Scientific literature shows a number of characteristics of sports and exercise activities that are important for reducing psychological complaints.
* The use of at least moderately intensive sports or exercise activities that improve endurance.
* Sports or exercise activities that take place several times a week
for a longer period.
* Offering sports or exercise activities in groups.
* Guidance by a professional in the field of sports and exercise.